Perestroika

political movement for reformation within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s, widely associated with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his glasnost policy reform

Perestroika (Russian: перестройка) was a political movement for reform within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) during the late 1980s widely associated with CPSU general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and his glasnost (meaning "openness") policy reform. The literal meaning of perestroika is "reconstruction", referring to the restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system, in an attempt to end the Era of Stagnation.

Perestroika (reformation). Worker. Industries and agriculture. 1988

Perestroika allowed more independent actions from various ministries and introduced many market-like reforms. The alleged goal of perestroika, however, was not to end the command economy but rather to make socialism work more efficiently to better meet the needs of Soviet citizens by adopting elements of liberal economics. The process of implementing perestroika added to existing shortages, and created political, social, and economic tensions within the Soviet Union. Furthermore, it is often blamed for the political ascent of nationalism and nationalist political parties in the constituent republics.

Mikhail Gorbachev first used the term in a speech during his visit to the city of Tolyatti in 1986. Perestroika lasted from 1985 until 1991, and is sometimes argued to be a significant cause of the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This marked the end of the Cold War.

Quotes edit

  • The reform policies of the Gorbachev government were, in effect, its own attempt to create what had been termed, with reference to Dubcek and Czechoslovakia in 1968, ‘Socialism with a human face’. The sham propaganda of Communist progress, however, helped ensure that these policies inadvertently destroyed Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, as well as the Soviet state. It proved impossible, in yet another stage of the attempt at uplifting the Soviet standard of living, and thus promoting the efficacy of Soviet ideology, to introduce a market responsiveness in a planned economy. Consumerism was a Western bourgeois concept to the Soviet government but, nevertheless, there was a wish to win popular support through economic means. Efforts from 1985 to achieve economic and political reform, however, faced the structural economic and fiscal weakness of the Soviet system, not least the preference for control as opposed to any price system that reflected cost and availability. Moreover, the post-Communist dismantling of the old command economy was to expose the uncompetitive nature of much Soviet-era industry, both of individual enterprises and of the economy as a whole. By 1985, it took the Soviet Union three times as much electricity to produce one ton of steel as in the case of the West Germans, and at least twice as much time (i.e. labour) as in the West German and American cases. Soviet economic inefficiency and costs led to the moment of truth that Gorbachev faced in the mid-1980s.
  • Launched in 1985, perestroika has created the preconditions for a peaceful transition of the country into the mainstream of the world civilization. The liberalization of the political and intellectual life of society, the awakening of people to active political life, the significant expansion of the boundaries of transparency, have increased the authority of the USSR in the international arena – all this, of course, can be credited to perestroika. However, the favorable conditions have not been fully put to use by the central organs of state and party leadership. In the conditions of an acute political and ideological crisis gripping society, forces that rely on the so-called “national idea” in battle for power have begun to play a significant role. Its essence is the exaltation of the nation, the nation-state. At the same time the right of a separate sovereign personality is completely suppressed by the national idea. The danger of nationalism is in preaching national exclusiveness, inciting inter-ethnic conflicts. The concern is that national movements are usually headed by a leader of the authoritarian type, to whom the ideals and principles of democracy are nothing more than camouflage. They are characterized by intolerance of dissent, a willingness to poison and destroy dissent, an aspiration to use political power as a source of personal enrichment. Such anti-democratism is characteristic of the leaders of a number of other movements. The victory of these figures leads to the establishment of the totalitarian state, which will be a mirror image of our recent past, which we are trying to leave with such efforts.
  • For the first time since the Cold War began the U.S.S.R. had a ruler who did not seem sinister, boorish, unresponsive, senile—or dangerous. Gorbachev was "intelligent, well-educated, dynamic, honest, with ideas and imagination," one of his closest advisers, Anatoly Chernyaev, noted in his private diary. "Myths and taboos (including ideological ones) are nothing for him. He could flatten any of them." When a Soviet citizen congratulated him early in 1987 for having replaced a regime of "stonefaced sphinxes," Gorbachev proudly published the letter. What would replace the myths, taboos, and sphinxes, however, was less clear. Gorbachev knew that the Soviet Union could not continue on its existing path, but unlike John Paul II, Deng, Thatcher, Reagan, and Wałęsa, he did not know what the new path should be. He was at once vigorous, decisive, and adrift: he poured enormous energy into shattering the status quo without specifying how to reassemble the pieces. As a consequence, he allowed circumstances—and often the firmer views of more far-sighted contemporaries—to determine his own priorities. He resembled, in this sense, the eponymous hero of Woody Allen's movie Zelig, who managed to be present at all the great events of his time, but only by taking on the character, even the appearance, of the stronger personalities who surrounded him.
  • Gorbachev's impressionability also showed up in economics. He had been aware, from his travels outside the Soviet Union before assuming the leadership, that "people there . . . were better off than in our country." It seemed that "our aged leaders were not especially worried about our undeniably lower living standards, our unsatisfactory way of life, and our falling behind in the field of advanced technologies." But he had no clear sense of what to do about this. So Secretary of State Shultz, a former economics professor at Stanford, took it upon himself to educate the new Soviet leader. Shultz began by lecturing Gorbachev, as early as 1985, on the impossibility of a closed society being a prosperous society: "People must be free to express themselves, move around, emigrate and travel if they want to. . . . Otherwise they can't take advantage of the opportunities available. The Soviet economy will have to be radically changed to adapt to the new era." "You should take over the planning office here in Moscow," Gorbachev joked, "because you have more ideas than they have." In a way, this is what Shultz did. Over the next several years, he used his trips to that city to run tutorials for Gorbachev and his advisers, even bringing pie charts to the Kremlin to illustrate his argument that as long as it retained a command economy, the Soviet Union would fall further and further behind the rest of the developed world.
  • Gorbachev was surprisingly receptive. He echoed some of Shultz's thinking in his 1987 book, Perestroika: "How can the economy advance," he asked, "if it creates preferential conditions for backward enterprises and penalizes the foremost ones?" When Reagan visited the Soviet Union in May, 1988, Gorbachev arranged for him to lecture at Moscow State University on the virtues of market capitalism. From beneath a huge bust of Lenin, the president evoked computer chips, rock stars, movies, and the "irresistible power of unarmed truth." The students gave him a standing ovation. Soon Gorbachev was repeating what he had learned to Reagan's successor, George H. W. Bush: "Whether we like it or not, we will have to deal with a united, integrated, European economy. . . . Whether we want it or not, Japan is one more center of world politics. . . . China ... is [another] huge reality. . . . All these, I repeat, are huge events typical of a regrouping of forces in the world." Most of this, however, was rhetoric: Gorbachev was never willing to leap directly to a market economy in the way that Deng Xiaoping had done. He reminded the Politburo late in 1988 that Franklin D. Roosevelt had saved American capitalism by "borrowing] socialist ideas of planning, state regulation, [and] . . . the principle of more social fairness." The implication was that Gorbachev could save socialism by borrowing from capitalism, but just how remained uncertain. "[R]epeated incantations about 'socialist values' and purified ideas of October,'" Chernyaev observed several months later, "provoke an ironic response in knowing listeners. . . . [T]hey sense that there's nothing behind them." After the Soviet Union collapsed, Gorbachev acknowledged his failure. "The Achilles heel of socialism was the inability to link the socialist goal with the provision of incentives for efficient labor and the encouragement of initiative on the part of individuals. It became clear in practice that a market provides such incentives best of all.
    • John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History (2005), p. 234
  • The totalitarian system in the Soviet Union and in most of its satellites is breaking down, and our nations are looking for a way to democracy and independence. The first act in this remarkable drama began when Mr. Gorbachev and those around him faced the sad reality of their country, initiated a policy of perestroika. Obviously, they had no idea either of what they were setting in motion or how rapidly events would unfold. We knew a lot about the enormous number of growing problems that slumbered beneath the honeyed, unchanging mask of socialism. But I don't think any of us knew how little it would take for these problems to manifest themselves in all their enormity and for the longings of these nations to emerge in all their strength. The mask fell away so rapidly that, in the flood of work, we have literally no time even to be astonished. Europe to 'Seek Its Own Identity'
  • Profound changes have taken place in social life, For the first time in history, the working man has become the master of the country, the creator of his own destiny. The guaranteed right to work and remuneration, society’s concern for man from birth to old age, broad access to spiritual culture, respect for the dignity and rights of the individual, the steady expansion of the working people’s participation in management-all these are permanent values and inalienable features of the socialist way of life. They are the most important source of political stability, social optimism and confidence in the future. Soviet people are rightly proud of all this. But life and its dynamism dictate the need for further changes and transformations, for the achievement of a new qualitative state of society, in the broadest sense of the word. This means, above all, the scientific and technical updating of production and the attainment of the highest world level of labor productivity. It means the improvement of social relations, first of all economic relations. It means profound changes in the sphere of labor and people’s material and spiritual living conditions. It means the invigoration of the entire system of political and public institutions, the deepening of socialist democracy, and self-government by the people.
  • The concept of the restructuring of the economic mechanism has now become clearer to us. In continuing to develop the centralized principle in the accomplishment of strategic tasks, we must more boldly advance along the path of expanding the rights of enterprises and their independence, introduce economic accountability and, on this basis, increase the responsibility and stake of labor collectives in the final results of work. The results of the large-scale experiment that is being conducted along these lines seem to be rather good. But they cannot fully satisfy us. The point has been reached at which a transition should be made from the experiment to the creation of an integral system of economic management and administration. This means that we should begin the practical restructuring of work in the upper echelons of economic management as well, that they should be oriented primarily toward the accomplishment of long-range social, economic, scientific and technical tasks and toward searches for the most effective forms of uniting science and production… Comrades! The CPSU sees the highest meaning of the acceleration of the social and economic development of the country in steadily, step by step, enhancing the people’s well-being, improving all aspects of the life of soviet people, and creating favorable conditions for the harmonious development of the individual. In the process, it is necessary to consistently pursue a line aimed at strengthening social justice in the distribution of material and spiritual wealth, intensifying the influence of social factors on the development of the economy, and improving its efficiency. This line meets with full approval and support among Soviet people. The task now is to work out concrete, effective measures to rid the distributive mechanism of wage-leveling, unearned income and everything that runs counter to the economic norms and moral ideals of our society, and to ensure that the financial position of every worker and every collective is directly dependent on the results of their labor. The Party will continue to wage a very resolute struggle against all negative phenomena alien to the socialist way of life and to our communist morality
  • Perestroika is an urgent necessity arising from the profound processes of development in our socialist society. This society is ripe for change. It has long been yearning for it. Any delay in beginning perestroika could have led to an exacerbated internal situation in the near future, which, to put it bluntly, would have been fraught with serious social, economic, and political crises.
  • Fate had it that when I found myself at the head of the state it was already clear that all was not well in the country. There is plenty of everything: land, oil and gas, other natural riches, and God gave us lots of intelligence and talent, yet we lived much worse than developed countries and keep falling behind them more and more. The reason could already be seen: The society was suffocating in the vise of the command-bureaucratic system, doomed to serve ideology and bear the terrible burden of the arms race. It had reached the limit of its possibilities. All attempts at partial reform, and there had been many, had suffered defeat, one after another. The country was losing perspective. We could not go on living like that. Everything had to be changed radically. The process of renovating the country and radical changes in the world turned out to be far more complicated than could be expected. However, what has been done ought to be given its due. This society acquired freedom, liberated itself politically and spiritually, and this is the foremost achievement which we have not yet understood completely, because we have not learned to use freedom.
  • I do not regard the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize as an award to me personally, but as a recognition of what we call perestroika and innovative political thinking, which is of vital significance for human destinies all over the world. The Nobel Peace Prize for 1990 confirms that perestroika and innovative political thinking no longer belong only to us, the people of the Soviet Union. They are the property of the whole of mankind and are an inseparable part of its destiny and of a safe, peaceful future. We are deeply grateful to Norway and other members of the international community who have shown such understanding and who, through their conduct in international issues and in their relations with the Soviet Union, have shown their solidarity as we proceed with our perestroika and their sympathy as we struggle to resolve our problems. If we all took this as our point of departure, mankind would have no cause to regret the loss of a unique opportunity for reason and the logic of peace to prevail over that of war and alienation.
  • However, work of historic significance has been accomplished. The totalitarian system which deprived the country of an opportunity to become successful and prosperous long ago has been eliminated. A breakthrough has been achieved on the way to democratic changes. Free elections, freedom of the press, religious freedoms, representative organs of power, a multiparty (system) became a reality; human rights are recognized as the supreme principle. However, work of historic significance has been accomplished. The totalitarian system which deprived the country of an opportunity to become successful and prosperous long ago has been eliminated. A breakthrough has been achieved on the way to democratic changes. Free elections, freedom of the press, religious freedoms, representative organs of power, a multiparty (system) became a reality; human rights are recognized as the supreme principle. The movement to a diverse economy has started, equality of all forms of property is becoming established, people who work on the land are coming to life again in the framework of land reform, farmers have appeared, millions of acres of land are being given over to people who live in the countryside and in towns. Economic freedom of the producer has been legalized, and entrepreneurship, shareholding, privatization are gaining momentum. In turning the economy toward a market, it is important to remember that all this is done for the sake of the individual. At this difficult time, all should be done for his social protection, especially for senior citizens and children.
  • We live in a new world. The Cold War has ended, the arms race has stopped, as has the insane militarization which mutilated our economy, public psyche and morals. The threat of a world war has been removed. Once again I want to stress that on my part everything was done during the transition period to preserve reliable control of the nuclear weapons. We opened ourselves to the world, gave up interference into other people's affairs, the use of troops beyond the borders of the country, and trust, solidarity and respect came in response. The nations and peoples [of this country gained real freedom to choose the way of their self-determination. The search for a democratic reformation of the multinational state brought us to the threshold of concluding a new Union Treaty. All these changes demanded immense strain. They were carried out with sharp struggle, with growing resistance from the old, the obsolete forces. The old system collapsed before the new one had time to begin working, and the crisis in the society became even more acute.
  • General Secretary Gorbachev’s policy of restructuring brings with it, for the first time since the end of World War II, a justifiable hope of overcoming the East-West conflict.
    • Helmut Kohl, Awake! magazine, September 22, 1990; in its article; Berlin—A Mirror of Our World?
  • ... Earlier attempts at "reform" tried to keep the ideology intact and simply change the way it was implemented. This sufficed to eliminate the grosser aspects of Stalinist terror, but not to improve the managerial efficiency of the economy.... When Gorbachev first came to power it appeared that he, too, was going for superficial "fixes" in economic management. Nevertheless, as his program developed, it began more and more to confront the ideological foundation of old practices—and to change the old assumptions.... This process followed several paths. On was an all-out attack on Stalinism, which implicitly—and sometimes explicitly—denied that the Stalinist system of state monopoly was even a legitimate form of Socialism.... Rehabilitation of non-Stalinist Marxist thinkers such as Bukharin has occurred with the devious intent of providing variant and more congenial interpretations of Marxist principles.... Lenin has remained sacrosanct, but his utterances on topics of the day were so varied that the diligent researcher can find a quote to bolster virtually any proposition. "Leninism" in effect becomes what the current leaders want it to be—transformation of Marxism itself.... Among the major ideological points which the reformers are trying to establish are the fundamental role of the market in determining economic value....
  • An objective look at the major economic initiatives launched under the banner of perestroika shows a recurrent flaw. Top Soviet leadership is having to revisit each initiative in order to sustain or rebuild momentum which is otherwise lost when the leadership itself is not focused on it. The political thrusts of each major economic initiative (e.g., land-leasing, consumer goods, free trade zones, financial autonomy, industrial policy, consumer good production) have far outdistanced economic substance, and provision of the specifics necessary for implementation and overcoming resistance to reform at all levels. It is almost as certain that Perestroika will not bring marked improvements to the Soviet economy in the [next four years] and that internal resistance to major aspects of the reform program will force those a the helm to tack against the wind much of the time. The potential for severe outbreaks of public disorder will grow. This will contribute to a sense of anxiety on the Supreme Councils of the Party and State, though I believe that they, in the end, will maintain order. Crystal balls are never as clear as one would like and they tend to cloud over during times of rapid and fundamental change. Nevertheless, it seems that we can make some assessments about the Soviet domestic scene over the next 4 years with a high degree of confidence.
  • Turkmenistan has more than enough problems. Will we make progress in solving them if the people begin to attend rallies? I must point out to their credit and as a tribute to their courage that the people do not pour out onto the streets and the representatives of more than 100 nations and ethnic groups living in our territory still live as a single harmonious family. Adversities are objectively a factor which bring the people closer together, and I do not doubt that in those areas where the reverse occurs those people who do not like renewal and perestroika have already been hard at work. . . . It is important to draw closer to Lenin's concept of nationalities policy, to restructure the Soviet federation and render it full-blooded. The task it to ensure that a totally healthy and constructive character is imparted to movements stemming from the heart of the people. We must make the national factor the motive force of perestroika rather than an obstacle and a brake on renewal.
  • After Brezhnev’s death Andropov succeeded to the top post but was too old to reform the USSR. On Andropov’s death in 1984, Gorbachev did not push for the leadership: the senile and exhausted Konstantin Chernenko assumed power and survived just a few months. With this death it was clear that a new and young leader was needed: Gorbachev became first secretary and took control. Swiftly he changed both the tone and facts of Soviet rule: he declared perestroika – ‘restructuring’ – and glasnost – ‘openness’; but as a devout communist committed to the dictatorship of the proletariat and the party on which his power depended, he was no Western liberal democrat. He simply hoped to reform, consolidate and strengthen the Soviet dictatorship but instead unleashed forces he could not control. His economic mismanagement undermined his own achievements: his ban on alcohol deprived a desperate budget of key funds. Gorbachev’s tinkering with the command economy produced instant shortages and discontent – he did not understand how capitalism worked. But he did gradually open up a semi-free press and allowed limited free elections – though he did not risk any kind of vote on his own role, relying on the party for his legitimacy. To Russians, he came to stand for a dangerous experiment, his tone – so charming to Westerners – sounded pompous and lecturing to his own people.
  • I must say frankly that I was shaken by the events of the Congress’s first working day. Pressing a button decided the fate not only of the President but also of restructuring and democratization. Can this be normal? Comrade democrats, in the broadest sense of the word, you have scattered, the reformers have taken to the bushes. A dictatorship is coming-I say this in no uncertain terms. No one knows what kind of dictatorship it will be, what kind of dictator will come to power, or what kind of system will be established. I want to make the following announcement: I am resigning. Let this be my protest, if you will, against the coming of a dictatorship. I express deep gratitude to M. S. Gorbachev. I am his friend, and we share the same views. I have always supported the ideas of restructuring, the ideas of renewal and the ideas of democratization, and will support them to the end of my days. We have accomplished great things in the international arena, but I believe that this is my duty as a man, as a citizen, as a Communist. I cannot reconcile myself to the events that are taking place in our country, to the ordeals that await our people. Nevertheless, I believe that a dictatorship will not succeed, and that the future belongs to democracy and freedom.
  • The policy of reforms, launched at Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s initiative and designed as a means to insure the country’s dynamic development and the democratization of social life has entered for several reasons a blind alley. Lack of faith, apathy, and despair have replaced the original enthusiasm and hopes. Authorities at all levels have lost the population’s trust. Politicking has replaced in public life concern for the fate of the Motherland and the citizen. Malicious outrage against all state institutions is being imposed. The country has in fact become ungovernable. Having taken advantage of the granted liberties and encroaching upon the first sprouts of democracy, there have emerged extremist forces that have embarked on the course toward liquidating the Soviet Union, ruining the state, and seizing power at any cost. The results of the nationwide referendum on the Motherland’s unity have been trampled upon. Cynical speculations on national feelings are merely a smoke screen to satisfy ambitions. Neither today’s misfortunes of their peoples, nor their tomorrow, worry political adventurists. In creating an atmosphere of moral and political terror and seeking to hide behind the shield of popular trust, they forget that the relations they condemn and disrupt were established on the basis of far broader popular support, which, besides, has passed the centuries-long test of history.
  • Let me also say this: The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach – condemnation without discussion – can carry forward only a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door. In light of the Cultural Revolution’s horrors, Nixon’s meeting with Mao appeared inexcusable – and yet it surely helped set China on a path where millions of its citizens have been lifted from poverty and connected to open societies. Pope John Paul’s engagement with Poland created space not just for the Catholic Church, but for labor leaders like Lech Walesa. Ronald Reagan’s efforts on arms control and embrace of perestroika not only improved relations with the Soviet Union, but empowered dissidents throughout Eastern Europe. There’s no simple formula here. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement, pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.
  • In the 1950's, Khrushchev predicted: "We will bury you." But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind-too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor. And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control. Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
  • Let me cite one of the most eloquent contemporary passages on human freedom. It comes, not from the literature of America, but from this country, from one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, Boris Pasternak, in the novel Dr. Zhivago.' He writes: "I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats -- any kind of threat, whether of jail or of retribution after death -- then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion tamer in the circus with his whip, not the prophet who sacrificed himself. But this is just the point -- what has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel, but an inward music -- the irresistible power of unarmed truth.'' The irresistible power of unarmed truth. Today the world looks expectantly to signs of change, steps toward greater freedom in the Soviet Union. We watch and we hope as we see positive changes taking place. There are some, I know, in your society who fear that change will bring only disruption and discontinuity, who fear to embrace the hope of the future -- sometimes it takes faith. It's like that scene in the cowboy movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which some here in Moscow recently had a chance to see. The posse is closing in on the two outlaws, Butch and Sundance, who find themselves trapped on the edge of a cliff, with a sheer drop of hundreds of feet to the raging rapids below. Butch turns to Sundance and says their only hope is to jump into the river below, but Sundance refuses. He says he'd rather fight it out with the posse, even though they're hopelessly outnumbered. Butch says that's suicide and urges him to jump, but Sundance still refuses and finally admits, "I can't swim.'' Butch breaks up laughing and says, "You crazy fool, the fall will probably kill you.'' And, by the way, both Butch and Sundance made it, in case you didn't see the movie. I think what I've just been talking about is perestroika and what its goals are.
  • But change would not mean rejection of the past. Like a tree growing strong through the seasons, rooted in the Earth and drawing life from the Sun, so, too, positive change must be rooted in traditional values -- in the land, in culture, in family and community -- and it must take its life from the eternal things, from the source of all life, which is faith. Such change will lead to new understandings, new opportunities, to a broader future in which the tradition is not supplanted but finds its full flowering. That is the future beckoning to your generation. At the same time, we should remember that reform that is not institutionalized will always be insecure. Such freedom will always be looking over its shoulder. A bird on a tether, no matter how long the rope, can always be pulled back. And that is why, in my conversation with General Secretary Gorbachev, I have spoken of how important it is to institutionalize change -- to put guarantees on reform. And we've been talking together about one sad reminder of a divided world: the Berlin Wall. It's time to remove the barriers that keep people apart.
  • I've come to Moscow with this human rights agenda because, as I suggested, it is our belief that this is a moment of hope. The new Soviet leaders appear to grasp the connection between certain freedoms and economic growth. The freedom to keep the fruits of one's own labor, for example, is a freedom that the present reforms seem to be enlarging. We hope that one freedom will lead to another and another; that the Soviet Government will understand that it is the individual who is always the source of economic creativity, the inquiring mind that produces a technical breakthrough, the imagination that conceives of new products and markets; and that in order for the individual to create, he must have a sense of just that -- his own individuality, his own self-worth. He must sense that others respect him and, yes, that his nation respects him -- respects him enough to grant him all his human rights. This, as I said, is our hope; yet whatever the future may bring, the commitment of the United States will nevertheless remain unshakable on human rights. On the fundamental dignity of the human person, there can be no relenting, for now we must work for more, always more.
  • Probably never in past decades has the USSR Government been obliged to put forward such a difficult and extraordinarily crucial report on measures which, in essence, really determine how the people are to live in the future. It is precisely this circumstance that obliges me to address not only you, members of the USSR Supreme Soviet, but also all the citizens of our country. I am convinced that the extremely difficult tasks and problems which the government has set out in its report on the country’s economic situation and the concept for a transition to a regulated market economy will catch the attention of every Soviet person. For, in essence, the transformations which we are to implement will predetermine the lifestyle and destiny not only of the present generation, but of future generations too. The country has been consistently drawing closer to this decisive step-I shall put it bluntly–over the whole five years of perestroika. We have been advancing toward it through radical changes and profound, far from painless reinterpretation of all our views of socialism; through reevaluation of the essence of such concepts as democratization, ownership, the market enterprise; through a new understanding of the role and position of the individual in the system of economic management; and much else. We have come to decisions which very recently were uncharacteristic and uncustomary for our public opinion. Therefore, I assume it is understandable how complex, crucial, and intense the work carried out by the government over the past months has been.
  • First, the market is a condition for a radical restructuring of the system of economic management which has come about; for the very fundamental changes in production relations and; in the final analysis, the formation of a qualitatively new cast for our entire economy. The moment has come when we must take a decisive step, since the old economic system has lost its viability and a new one must be created without delay. Second, such a fundamental restructuring of economic life, and on such a scale, is without direct analogy either in our own or in foreign practice. The specific conditions do not permit the transfer of anyone else’s experience to our social system on a one-for-one basis, although on the whole, everything which is useful and acceptable of that experience accumulated abroad has to be used. But to ensure complete success we need largely nontraditional and at times completely new solutions. Third, the complexity of the problems which we will inevitably come up against in the near future quite naturally provokes an enormous scattering of views on possible ways of overcoming them. All of this had to be taken into account in the course of preparing the concept. All central economic bodies were involved in its elaboration. The more important tenets were discussed at conferences with the leaders of enterprises of industry and agriculture; with workers in the system of material and technical provision, of financial bodies, banks; with economic scholars; and the heads of government of the union republics.
  • In China, they started on limited economic reform first but it was beginning to succeed in producing more goods for the people—on a limited scale certainly, but it was beginning to succeed. You cannot get economic reform really going well and with a future unless you get political liberty. That was what they found. We have always known it. Here, I think it was perhaps the wiser way to start: to start with the political reform, the thorough discussion. After all, new ideas come out of discussion and free interplay of ideas and discussion between one and the other. The glasnost as it is called, has gone very far very quickly, far further, far faster than we thought and I think that plus the communication of the ideas will in the end lead to much greater prosperity. I think the point that I have to make again is that although the politicians at the top—led by Mr. Gorbachev—could bring about the glasnost, it requires the practical and willing cooperation of the people to enlarge their responsibility and their activity to bring success in economic reform. I believe that will come about. I believe that the changes—the glasnost—really have become permanent because they have gone so much further than anything we thought and they have given a so much better atmosphere and less tension—the fear seems to have gone—and so I believe that perestroika is now set upon its course and that it will go through to success.
  • After the XX Congress, in an ultra-narrow circle of our closest friends and associates, we often discussed the problems of democratization of the country and society. We chose a simple – like a sledgehammer – method of propagating the "ideas" of late Lenin. A group of true, not imaginary reformers developed (of course, orally) the following plan: to strike with the authority of Lenin at Stalin, at Stalinism. And then, if successful, – to strike with Plekhanov and Social Democracy - at Lenin, and then – with liberalism and "moral socialism" – at revolutionarism in general... The Soviet totalitarian regime could be destroyed only through glasnost and totalitarian party discipline, while hiding behind the interests of improving socialism. [...] Looking back, I can proudly say that a clever, but very simple tactic – the mechanisms of totalitarianism against the system of totalitarianism – has worked.
  • After I was elected chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Russia, I committed one very important tactical blunder. I trusted Gorbachev. It seemed to me that an alliance with Gorbachev might become very important in stabilizing the situation both in the republics and in the country as a whole. And many people urged me on. Our joint work on the 500-day program brought the interests of a renewed union of republics and the center even closer together. Gorbachev had admitted publicly that the Shatalin-Iavlinskii program looked very interesting and promising to him. It seemed to me that all we had to do was take one more step, and we could walk together onto the road which would lead us out of the crisis. But that didn’t happen. He suddenly changed his position drastically, and the 500-day program collapsed, burying any hopes with it for a way out of the impasse. Instead of breaking with Gorbachev and firmly divorcing myself from the president’s policies of half steps, half measures, and half reforms, I fell prey to the illusion that we could still reach an agreement. But, as it turned out, it was impossible to make an agreement with a president who is simultaneously the general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist party and to whom the interests of the party caste and the party elite will always take precedence over any other interests. And so we lost four months. We didn’t get anywhere by supporting Moscow indirectly by our silence. On February 19, in a live broadcast on Central Television, I had enough courage to tell the viewers that I was dissociating myself from Gorbachev’s policies. It would have been impossible and immoral for me to continue to watch without a murmur while the current leadership dragged the country toward chaos and catastrophe by trying to preserve the rotten system.
  • Regardless of the reasons given for his removal, we are dealing with a rightist, reactionary, anti-constitutional coup. Despite all the difficulties and severe trials being experienced by the people, the democratic process in the country is acquiring an increasingly broad sweep and an irreversible character. The peoples of Russia are becoming masters of their destiny. The uncontrolled powers of unconstitutional organs have been considerably limited, and this includes party organs.
  • Without resolving the question of power there are no revolutions. Our present-day revolution is no exception. The transfer of a large part of incomes, rights, and social privileges from the top stories of the social pyramid to the lower is connected with the redistribution of power. This is a profoundly democratic action, but it is understandable that it can only be carried out by encroaching on the interests of those groups who occupy a privileged position today, primarily the apparatus of party, soviet, and economic management. The principle of the radical redistribution of power is “built into” the very concept of perestroika, and that is what makes it a social revolution. Fundamental transformations are required to lead our society onto a Leninist path of socialist development. But it would be premature to conclude from the fact that these changes are essential that they are already taking place, in other words, that the measures that are being implemented in society are of a revolutionary nature. To assert this would mean deceiving ourselves and others. From my viewpoint, the system of measures that are being implemented so far can be assessed only as a rather incomprehensive, contradictory reform based on many compromises, a reform whose pace and only slight efficiency are so far curbing society’s development. We have yet to attain genuinely revolutionary transformations. Or, to be more precise, they must be won in a hard sociopolitical struggle that will markedly change today’s balance of social forces.
  • The perestroika of social relations is not being implemented in an empty space, but rather where the vitally important interests of different classes, strata, and groups of our society intersect. Each of them is seeking to protect its own interests, to achieve their implementation, and to prevent a threat to them. The professional demands made on leaders under the new conditions are naturally growing. Labor is becoming more complex, and the intellectual level it requires is increasing. This alone is enough for a proportion of leaders to take a conservative stance, to be in no hurry to make practical changes in production management methods. To these factors we must add insufficient thought and the inconsistencies and confusion that inevitably arise in connection with the first attempts to switch enterprises to new conditions of economic management. This is expanding still further the circle of leaders who are displeased by the course of perestroika. While supporting the fundamental concept of perestroika they believe that it is not being implemented, that many of the innovations that are actually being introduced are in fact only consolidating a leadership based on administration through command.
  • Under the conditions of antagonism of the interests of different social groups, an attempt to ease conflicts can in reality result in the emasculation of the main ideas of perestroika. And a one-sided orientation toward compromises, an excessive fear of offending the interests of a particular group will delay progress. Then the slow progress of perestroika will lead to acute dissatisfaction among working people, although it is being implemented precisely in their interests. The implementation of a thoughtful strategy for managing perestroika will make it possible to accelerate the progress of the revolution. After all, it is only the convinced, self- sacrificing participation of the broadest masses which can ensure its victory. Social revolution implemented through the efforts of the apparatchiks, revolution “from above” cannot work. It should be the business of those who are vitally interested in it: the progressive section of workers, kolkhoz members, and the intelligentsia. It is essential to sharply intensify their influence on the progress of perestroika. The theses show how much can be done if you alter the political power structure.

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